Jesse Dunford Wood, Head Chef at Parlour Kensal
Jesse’s cooking style combines traditional pub-grub dining with an eclectic cosmopolitan twist. He recreates classic dishes such as Chicken Kiev and Arctic rolls giving a nostalgic comfort too diners. His theatrical approach is envisioned through the chef’s table which gives 6-8 lucky diners the chance to watch Jesse ring-side whilst he created his magnificent dishes in front of you – leading to an enchanting night out for all those who attend.
Current Workplace: Parlour
Previously worked at: The Mall Tavern, The National Dining Rooms…
1. What inspired you to become a Chef/Open your own restaurant - when was your 'Eureka' moment?
When I was an art student aged 18. I had a dream of having a money making dinner party, and I am now living that dream.
I cooked through survival when I lived in London at University, and it has spawned from there. Grown into this obsessed beast.
2. What was your very first job?
I worked washing pots in a very beautiful restaurant called the Witchery by the Castle in Edinburgh. They gave me the first opportunity in the kitchen, and I have been moving up through the ranks ever since.
3. If you could only cook with 3 ingredients for the rest of your life which would they be?
Bread, Lemons & Butter.
Bread is an amazing thing. So much diversity, some many possibilities, and variation. Can also be used for so much too. Crumbs, fresh, Toasted, Grilled, and there is the things to put ON YOUR BREAD! Cannot live without it. Even that middle Eastern Flat Bread too..
I love lemons. Love the versatility of them, used in sweet and savoury dishes, you can use the zest, the juice, they can be salted and used whole. They bring dishes to life with the acidity. We always have them at hand here at Parlour. Essential to all of our cooking.
Butter!? No chef can live without it. It is also very versatile. Adds richness, creaminess, nutty notes. Can roast, bake and poach with it. For baking it is amazing, essential even. I dare you to cook without butter..!
4. What's your favourite cuisine and what drink would you have with it?
Love homely comfort food, and I love TEA being English. Brilliant combination, and tea goes with everything. Everyone knows that.
5. Which ingredients do you have a love/hate relationship with and why?
Don’t love caraway seeds very much. I am fairly easy apart from that. But also lamb, it is not my favourite meat, and I cook it rarely. Got to cook things you love eating, no point otherwise!
6. Which Chef inspires you the most?
I have learnt my trade from several top chefs, my first Chef Alan Matheison in Edinburgh, Micheal Caines, Mark Best, Charlie Trotter, Rowley Leigh, Mark Hix, and the Special one, a non-chef Oliver Peyton, and I have drawn different things from each of them, flair, discipline, honesty, fun. All are important ingredients that have made me and the food we cook, and the style it is served in, what it is. I also went to different people in order to learn specific things. They were all considered jobs.
7. What would be your last supper and who would cook it?
Chicken Noodle Soup
Macaroni Cheese with Smoked Bacon
I think I would get my wife to cook it. She is the best cook I know. And she is not a chef.
8. If you had not been a chef, what would you have done?
Probably been in the art world perhaps. Something a bit more structured than an artist like my father, something more along the lines of advertising, or graphics
9. Tell us a secret ?
I have no formal training, no certificates, and no qualifications for what I do. Does that make me a lesser chef?
10. What’s your favourite kitchen utensil?
Love a zester, those microplanes have been really revolutionary for me, zesting citrus fruit, shaving nuts and chocolate and cheese and truffles. Love it!
11. Who would you love to cook for?
If I could cook for anyone, really would be my family, I have no aspirations to cook for famous people, people you love are much more important.
12. What music/track do you like to listen to while cooking?
I actually prefer a silent kitchen, and concentration. I find music too trivial and distracting. Do I sound old and boring?
13. Favourite junk food/ guilty pleasure?
I love pork pies and chutney late night after service. That and any kinds of sweets I can get my hands on.
14. What irritates you most about the industry?
It worries me that recruitment is so difficult here. Even in London. Also, the working hours are unavoidable, but difficult for many people.
15. Tell us about the most difficult customer you have ever dealt with?
Difficult customers make life very hard. When people are tricky and rude with staff in the middle of busy services, it throws everyone. Some people cannot be pleased and arrive intent on causing trouble. Sad really. We do make mistakes but we work very hard, and try and rectify problems when they happen. I have no specifics, but please be nice when eating out. There are some very hard working real people out there serving you.
16. Who would be in your fantasy kitchen team?
I would have Nobu on the cold starters, he is really good at all that cold stuff.
I would have Escoffier on the main course, he knew his way around a piece of meat.
I would have Peter Gilmore from Quay in Sydney on Pastry, he is a wonder with the puds.
Marco Pierre White on the Pass, he would keep all those egos in check.
Out front I would have Keith Floyd as M’aitre D, he knows how to have a good time, and he would show others that too.
I would have to be eating that night. Be on the end of some seriously good hospitality.
17. What dish would win over your heart?
Sadly, nothing exotic, I love a good macaroni cheese with smoked bacon and LOTS of cheese. Tongue burning is best.